Chicken for beef

Drought forces farmers to adjust

19 May 2019 | Agriculture

Palmwag • Nina Cerezo

Gabes /Goagoseb sits on his shady veranda. In the surrounding garden, cacti and other plants are blooming, a window of his stone house behind him is open. Everything looks tidy, fresh and inviting, like a small oasis in the middle of the otherwise desolate landscape.

Actually he farmed with cattle for many years, he tells me. But as he became more and more affected by the drought, he looked for alternatives – and finally made a change.

Since 2015 and together with his wife, this pensioner has been running his own poultry farm. He purchased 1.4 hectares of land for this purpose, fenced it off and built several chicken coops.

Since then around 60 laying hens and 50 roosters have made themselves at home in spacious enclosures right next to the couple's home. “We not only supply eggs to surrounding farmers, but also to hotels in Kamanjab,” says the former member of the conservancy board during my recent visit.

For large animals like cattle or goats, there has simply not been enough food in recent years, /Goagoseb says, proudly calling himself an “early adaptor”. For his company, Rega Poultry Farming CC, he has many exciting plans for the future.

Since he is satisfied with how the business is growing, he feels confident to continue expanding, he says. In future, he says, his chickens will also be sold for consumption. The “production” is already on the go,

/Goagoseb jokes, while watching his wife feed some of the birds.

Still, the drought is making its mark.

“Only yesterday elephants tried to break into the chicken enclosure,” /Goagoseb says, telling me how he was woken up by the pachyderms' footsteps, although his wife initially convinced him that it had only been a dream. But when he looked through the window, the elephants showed themselves in full glory. “I'm not sure how many there were, but at least ten animals,” he said while pointing to the large, round footprints that are still visible in the red sand.

In some places the fence is clearly damaged, but the elephants did not make it through. “It looks as though they were scratching an itch along the fence, but thankfully they moved on. They probably smelled the chicken's alfalfa,” /Goagoseb says.

He says that this was the second time the massive animals have come so close to their plot. Other farmers in the area would be much more concerned about human-animal conflict in this drought. Still, he hopes that the giants will move around his farm in future.